Thursday, November 30, 2006

That's What We Need - More Bullshit Detectors

Via Atrios, here's Dan Froomkin on why it's important that journalists call lawmakers and politicians on their bullshit and how most of them don't anymore (in full):

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.

It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography. I’m convinced that my enthusiasm for calling bullshit is the main reason for the considerable success of my White House Briefing column, which has turned into a significant traffic-driver for The Washington Post’s Web site.

I’m not sure why calling bullshit has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons. There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

The return of Democrats to political power and relevancy gives us the opportunity to call bullshit in a more bipartisan matter, which is certainly healthy. But there are different kinds of bullshit. Republican political leaders these past six years have built up a massive, unprecedented credibility deficit, such that even their most straightforward assertions invite close bullshit inspection. By contrast, Democratic bullshit tends to center more around hypocrisy and political cowardice. Trying to find equivalency between the two would still be a mistake – and could lead to catty, inside-baseball gotcha journalism rather than genuine bullshit-calling.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

But here’s the good news for you newsroom managers wringing your hands over new technologies and the loss of younger audiences: Because the Internet so values calling bullshit, you are sitting on an as-yet largely untapped gold mine. I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

I just saw NBC news anchor Brian Williams "interview" Condi Rice. Not once did he call her on any of the bullshit she was spinning over the Iraq mess, the Maliki/Bush summit debacle or the failed Mideast Bush policies. A few nights ago on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert asked Newshour anchor Jim Lehrer why he doesn't call the politicians and other people he interviews on their bullshit and Lehrer said he didn't think it was part of his job to do that.

Well then, if calling politicians and other public figures on their bullshit isn't part of Lehrer's job description, then what the fuck is it he does than provide a national forum for the spreading of bullshit?

Nothing New (Except The Rumored Coup)

Preznit Bush finally got to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in Jordan today after Maliki abruptly canceled yesterday's meeting.

The cancellation followed the leaking of a memo to the New York Times written by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that questioned Maliki's ability to put a stop to sectarian violence in Iraq and after Shiite backers of Maliki pulled out of the Iraqi government.

Today at the summit, the preznit and the prime minister promised to speed up the training of the Iraqi security forces and pledged continued cooperation to try and stop the violence in Iraq.

In other words, nothing new came from the summit between the two leaders.

While they pledged to speed up the training of Iraq security forces, nothing was said about getting the Shiite death squads and militiamen out of the army or the police force.

Until the Iraqi government or the U.S. government puts a stop to the Shiite death squads working within the various arms of the Iraqi government, I just don't see how they can make the situation better in Iraq.

So while the administration was hoping to use the summit between Bush and Maliki to show how they were making progress in "devising strategies for stemming civil strife in Iraq," instead administration officials found themselves on the defensive over Maliki's abrupt cancellation of yesterday's meeting and conjecture that the leaking of the Hadley memo was the administration's way of undercutting Maliki and setting him up for a fall.

Pat Buchanan said on Scarborough Country last night that if he were Maliki, he would read up on the history of Diem in Vietnam.

Diem, of course, was murdered in a Kennedy administration-engineered coup
after the Diem government started to act in ways no longer helpful to Kennedy's Vietnam policy in 1963.

I suspect Buchanan is right about this. While Bush is giving assurances in public that he supports Maliki 100%, behind the scenes there is much grumbling about his deficiencies, his ties to Shiite thugs like al-Sadr, and his unwillingness or inability to take on the Shiite militiamen and death squads.

And remember that when Preznit Bush gives a person a public show of support, it usually means the kiss of death. Remember how he backed up Rumsfeld a week before the election only to pull the plug on the Secretary of Defense the day after?

So, get ready for a U.S.-engineered coup that puts some strongman the administration trusts into power (at least according to the guys on Scarborough Country last night.)

Iyad Allawi, the former interim Prime Minister of Iraq currently living in Europe, fits the bill. Allawi has shown a willingness to take on the Shiiite militias and Moqtada al-Sadr in particular in the past. Plus Allawi is rumored to be pretty thuggish himself when it comes to getting what he wants (he brought former Saddam secret police agents into the interim government with him.) And remember too that the administration had wanted Allawi to be elected prime minister and even tried to rig the elections so that he would win (until the exposure of the rigging plan forced them to back off.)

If not Allawi, then somebody else, as long as he's going to deal ruthlessly with both the Shiites and the Sunnis. I don't think the Bush administration cares much about who he is as long as they have some measure of control over him and the change in government brings a change in direction for Iraq.

Especially since they plan no changes in Iraq war policy from this side.

Both the Washington Post and the NY Times report today that the Baker-Hamilton Commission is going to recommend a "major withdrawal" of the 15 U.S. combat brigades in Iraq (though no timetable for the withdrawal will be stated.) While some U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, they will focus on "logistics, intelligence and training and advising Iraqi units." Some combat troops will remain, but only to protect other U.S. forces, not deal with the insurgency or sectarian violence.

But Preznit Bush told us just Tuesday that there will be no withdrawal of American troops until "victory" is achieved in Iraq. At least not while he is preznit. So it seems that the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group will come to nothing as the preznit pursues his current Iraq policy oblivious to reality, sanity and the will of the American people.

Which is why it seems likely the Bushies leaked the Hadley memo to the Times yesterday to let Maliki know that he's got very little time before the axe comes down on him and the administration brings somebody else in to out-Saddam Saddam and finally try to put an end to the chaos and carnage in Iraq.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Preznit Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in Jordan today because it's too dangerous for Bush to go to Iraq.

The NY Times reports that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told Bush in a November 8th memo that he has serious doubts that Prime Minister Maliki has the political strength or wherewithal to put a stop to sectarian violence in Iraq because he is too tied to his Shiite powerbase. The key parts of the article, via Reuters:

The Times said the five-page document was based in part on a meeting between Hadley and al-Maliki that took place in Iraq on Oct. 30.

The memo said al-Maliki receives “undoubtedly skewed” information from a small circle of advisers from the Shiite Dawa Party.

“His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change,” the memo said.

“But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests al-Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into actions.”

The Washington Post
says that the tone in Washington has begun to shift as American lawmakers and administration officials have begun to blame Iraqis wholly for the mess in Iraq. Iraqis are not doing enough, Iraqis are too corrupt, Iraqis are too fractured politically, etc.

There is no blame aimed at war supporters or war architects who lacked the foresight to see these problems beforehand, however.

Finally, John Burns and Kirk Semple write in the NY Times that as the violence has gotten worse in Iraq and as conditions have deteriorated, the Americans have less and less sway and influence over the Iraqis, so when the preznit meets with Maliki today to urge him to put a stop to the sectarian violence, the chances for success are about as good as they are for John Kerry to win the White House in 2008.

What a mess. And yet, the preznit will most likely reject any proposals from the Baker-Hamilton Commission that call for meaningful change in official war policy. So you can forget talks with Syria and Iran, you can forget partial withdrawal of U.S. troops, you can forget Bush making any meaningful change in policy that might alter the current "Stand and Bleed" policy that has made Iraq so much more dangerous now.

It's a morass. And King Delusion is the "Decider" who has decided nothing is going to change.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Quotes of the Day

First one from Michael Ware, CNN's Iraq correspondent:

"Anyone who still remains in doubt about whether this is civil war or not is suffering from the luxury of distance."
Those suffering from the "luxury of distance" would include White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who said this yesterday while claiming Iraq is not in the middle of civil war:

"What you do have is sectarian violence that seems to be less aimed at gaining full control over an area than expressing differences, and also trying to destabilize a democracy — which is different than a civil war, where two sides are clashing for territory and supremacy."

Hey, Tony - how about moving the press office over into Baghdad for awhile, outside of the Green Zone, and then letting us know if the sectarian violence in Iraq is "different than a civil war"?

I bet your take would be different then.

And while you're at it, take the Chickenhawk Brigade, Talk Radio Division, with you. This way, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and the rest can get a look at the "Not Civil War" up close.

Completely Delusional

The preznit says the violence in Iraq between Shia and Sunni is not a civil war but rather an Al Qaeda plot against the West. I kid you not. Here's the Associated Press with the story:

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — President Bush said Tuesday that the sectarian violence rocking Iraq is part of an al-Qaeda plot to goad Iraqi factions into repeated attacks and counterattacks.

"No question it's tough, no question about it," Bush said at a news conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al-Qaeda causing people to seek reprisal."

Bush, who travels to Jordan later in the week for a summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the latest cycle of violence does not represent a new era in Iraq. The country is reeling from the deadliest week of sectarian fighting since the war began in March 2003.

"We've been in this phase for a while," Bush said.

The president dated the current spike in violence to the Feb. 22 bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra, which triggered reprisal attacks between Shiites and Sunnis and raised fears of civil war.

So I guess since the preznit believes Iraq has been in "this phase" for a while now and the preznit hasn't seen fit to change war policy the whole time, it wouldn't be out of order to figure the current surge in violence won't bring a change in policy either?

And that would be right. Again, the Associated Press:

Directly seeking help from Iran and Syria with Iraq, as part of new, aggressive diplomacy throughout the region, is expected to be among the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton group.

But Bush continued to express his administration's reluctance to talk with two nations it regards as pariah states working to destabilize the Middle East.

Iran, the top U.S. rival in the region, has reached out to Iraq and Syria in recent days — an attempt viewed as a bid to assert its role as a powerbroker in Iraq.

Bush said Iraq is a sovereign nation, free to meet with its neighbors. "If that's what they think they ought to do, that's fine," he said. "One thing Iraq would like to see is for the Iranians to leave them alone."

The president added that the U.S. will only deal with Iran when they suspend their program of enriching uranium, which could be used in a nuclear weapon arsenal.

"The Iranians and the Syrians should help — not destabilize — this young democracy," he said.

It looks like we're getting more of the same. Behind the scenes, it seems that the Bushies have told the Baker-Hamilton Commission in no uncertain terms that phased withdrawal of U.S. troops and diplomacy with Iran and Syria are out. Rumor has it that James Baker got the message and is crafting a plan that will be to the liking of both Bush and Cheney while forcing Democrats to take part ownership of this fucking mess by signing onto Bush's "Stand and Bleed" policy for at least the next 6-9 months.

And of course none of this policy wrangling is REALLY about solving the problems in Iraq. It's simply about finding a way to place blame on somebody other than Barbara Bush's incompetent little boy.

I suspect that the American people, usually pretty easily manipulated overall, won't be so easily fooled this time around. Post-Katrina, Bush no longer gets the benefit of the doubt. And as the carnage in Iraq grows worse each month and the administration simply throws its hands in the air and changes nothing but the rhetoric, most people seem to know EXACTLY who's to blame for this awful, awful mess.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who Cares?

I don't understand all this hand-wrangling by the news media over whether they should call the Iraq conflict a "civil war" or not.

Who the fuck cares what Tony Snow, George Bush or Dick Cheney call the Iraq conflict. The correct term is civil war. Here's Fareed Zakaria (no crazy liberal) on why:

"We're in the middle of a civil war and are being shot at by both sides.

"There can be no more doubt that Iraq is in a civil war, in which leaders of both its main communities, Sunnis and Shiites, are fomenting violence. . . .

"To speak, as the White House deputy press secretary did last week, of 'terrorists . . . targeting innocents in a brazen effort to topple a democratically elected government' totally misses the reality of Iraq today. Who are the terrorists and who are the innocents?"

Ah, that is the rub of it, isn't it?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Vote Rigging in Florida

Andrew Sullivan has a nice summary of the "obvious machine malfunction or malfeasance" that threw the Congressional election in Florida's 13th District to Republican Vern Buchanan by just a little over 300 votes) by under-counting 17,846 votes in heavily Democratic areas:

The Sentinel reviewed records of 17,846 touch-screen ballots that included no vote in the tightly contested 13th District congressional race to determine whom voters selected in other major races. The analysis of the so-called "undervotes" examined the races for U.S. Senate, governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

The results showed that the undervoted ballots skewed Democratic in all of those races, even in the three races in which the county as a whole went Republican. In the governor's race, for example, Republican Charlie Crist won handily in Sarasota, easily beating Democrat Jim Davis. But on the undervoted ballots, Davis finished ahead by almost 7 percentage points.

In the agriculture commissioner's race, Republican Charles Bronson beat Copeland by a double-digit margin among all voters. But on the undervoted ballots, Copeland won by about 3 percentage points.

Strange how 17,846 ballots in an area that skewers Democratic contained no vote for the Congressional race but did have votes for the ever popular agriculture commissioner's race.

Strange how Republicans don't want the electronic voting machines to have paper trails.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could look at the 17,846 paper trails from ALL those machines in FL 13 and see just how the people of that district voted in that Congressional race?

Yeah, it sure would.

Andrew Sullivan is correct: we need a federal investigation to see if Republicans stole this election or if simple machine malfunction was at fault.

And we also need to have a new election held in the district so that ALL voters who wish to cast ballots in the election, whether they are voting for the Democratic or the Republican candidate, get to have their votes counted correctly.

That seems to be a recurring problem in Florida, doesn't it? Or did you REALLY believe all those nice Jewish ladies in Palm Beach County voted for Pat Buchanan in 2000?

Iraq War Longer Than WWII

It's official - the Iraq war is now longer than World War II:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in the war that President Bush's father fought in, World War II.

As of Sunday, the conflict in Iraq has raged for three years and just over eight months.

Only the Vietnam War (eight years, five months), the Revolutionary War (six years, nine months), and the Civil War (four years), have engaged America longer.

Fighting in Afghanistan, which may or may not be a full-fledged war depending on who is keeping track, has gone on for five years, one month. It continues as the ousted Taliban resurges and the central government is challenged.

Bush says he still is undecided whether to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq or add to the 140,000 there now.


The Iraq war began on March 19, 2003, with the U.S. bombing of Baghdad. On May 1, 2003, Bush famously declared major combat operations over, the pronouncement coming in a speech aboard an aircraft carrier emblazoned with a "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Yet the fighting has dragged on, and most of the 2,800-plus U.S. military deaths have occurred after Bush suggested an end to what he called the Iraq front in the global fight against terrorism.


The outgoing Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, a veteran of World War II and a former Navy secretary, noted solemnly at a recent hearing of his committee that Sunday would mark the day when U.S. was involved longer in the Iraq war than it had been in World War II.

Yet the October 2002 congressional resolution that authorized the Iraq war "addressed the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, which is now gone, and no more a threat to us," Warner said.

While the United States is helping the Iraq's current government to assume the full reins of sovereignty, "we need to revise (our) strategy to achieve that goal," Warner said.

U.S. involvement in the Iraq war has outlasted that of the Korean War (three years, one month); the War of 1812 (two years, six months); the U.S.-Mexican War (one year, 10 months); World War I (one year, seven months); the Spanish American War (eight months); and the first Persian Gulf War (one and a half months).

Democrats and Republicans are divided about what to do next in Iraq.

Many Democrats and some Republicans have called for a phased withdrawal. Some lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a 2008 presidential hopeful, are urging that more U.S. troops be sent to help stabilize Iraq.

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who will be the next chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argues for beginning to bring troops home soon. "We should put the responsibility for Iraq's future squarely where it belongs, on the Iraqis," Levin said. "We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

Experts of various political stripes have suggested that the options are few.

"No mix of options for U.S. action can provide a convincing plan for 'victory' in Iraq," said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The initiative has passed into Iraqi hands."

However the conflict finally ends for the United States, there seems little doubt that Iraq is much worse off and the Middle East much more volatile now than when Saddam was in power.

What carnage the little Boy King who wanted to best his daddy has wrought on the people of Iraq, the American military, and the Mideast region.

And What Are The Chickenhawk Motherfuckers Doing?

From the Washington Post:

This week, U.S. troops will have been fighting in Iraq longer than they did in World War II, with no relief in sight. Soldiers from 1st Brigade preparing at Fort Stewart for their third Iraq tour have been spending as much time in Iraq as at home. The rotations -- a year in Iraq followed by a year at home -- dictate soldiers' most intimate decisions: They mandate when troops can marry and have children. They sever relationships that cannot sustain the stress of absence or danger. And they lead some couples to pray for the war to end.


Anxiety, depression and psychological trauma from repeated exposure to combat add to the stress, affecting 15 percent to 20 percent of soldiers, said Maj. Christopher H. Warner, a 3rd Infantry Division psychiatrist. Those factors contribute to drinking, drug use and domestic violence among a small percentage of soldiers, officers said.

While some GIs grow more resilient to combat stress, others get worse, Warner said. One soldier attacked by gunfire and bombs repeatedly at Iraqi bridges found himself afraid to drive through underpasses at home. Some soldiers under treatment for combat stress return to war but are screened to see if they pose a risk, Warner said.

Still, the bulk of psychological problems for soldiers relate to home-front issues such as separation and infidelity, he said.

Many soldiers doubt civilians can understand the pressures they face, and they see a widening gap between Army life and what some call "the outside world." "There are times you feel like, 'Why is it us?' " Audrey said. Civilians, she said, "don't have a concept of what we go through."

The question of "Why is it them?" is very simple to answer. They made the mistake of belonging to the military at a time when lawmakers in Washington and the preznit and his administration have decided to fight two unending wars with the same 320,000 troops that they rotate in and out of the war zones every year or so.

And when Congressman Charlie Rangel tried to point out the essential unfairness of making the same soldiers and marines deploy repeatedly to war zones while the rest of us do nothing by re-instituting a military draft so ALL Americans would have to make the sacrifices that currently only military people and their families are making, the politicians and media elites like Joe Scarborough scoffed and said "That's stupid."

Yes, from a political point of view perhaps it is "stupid" to ask ALL Americans to share the burdens and dangers of a war in Iraq that didn't have to be and that has almost certainly made us less safe in the War on Terror. And yet, isn't it "stupid" to ask the same soldiers, marines and their families to bear the burdens and dangers of these two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq year after year? And remember, under stop-loss measures instituted by the Pentagon, many marines and soldiers can NEVER leave their service behind as long as the government claims we are in a "time of crisis."

And so the 3rd Infantry Division gets ready to make its third deployment to Iraq in the last four years while Jenna and Barbara Bush returned from a week of partying in South America, Joe Scarborough ate a Thanksgiving Dinner that couldn't be beat and readies himself for a tough Christmas holiday working at MSNBC studios in Washington D.C., and the rest of the Chickenhawk Motherfuckers look to pass blame onto others for the Iraq debacle while most clearly staying away from the war zone and any personal danger to themselves.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hagel: The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership -- not an American divine mission.

Chuck Hagel in tomorrow's Washington Post:

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.


America finds itself in a dangerous and isolated position in the world. We are perceived as a nation at war with Muslims. Unfortunately, that perception is gaining credibility in the Muslim world and for many years will complicate America's global credibility, purpose and leadership. This debilitating and dangerous perception must be reversed as the world seeks a new geopolitical, trade and economic center that will accommodate the interests of billions of people over the next 25 years. The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership -- not an American divine mission.

The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.

We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.

It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.

To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.

Not much to say about this but - yes.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Wheels Are off

Do you get the feeling that yesterday's suicide bomb and mortar attacks in Sadr City that killed over 200 people and wounded hundreds more is a "turning point" similar to the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra?

BAGHDAD (AP) — Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and seven Sunni mosques came under attack as Shiites took revenge for the slaughter of 215 people in the Sadr City slum.

With the government trying to avert a civil war, two simultaneous bombings in Tal Afar, in northern Iraq, killed at least 23 people. On Thursday, Sunni-Arab insurgents unleashed bombings and mortar attacks in Sadr City, the deadliest assault since the U.S.-led invasion.

Members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques and several homes while killing 12 other Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood until American forces arrived, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein. Gunmen loyal to radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began taking over the neighborhood this summer and a majority of its Sunni residents already had fled.

The gunmen attacked the four mosques with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and automatic rifles. Residents said the militiamen prevented them from entering the burned buildings to remove the dead, and they and Hussein said Shiite-dominated police and Iraqi military stood idly by.

The police and Iraqi military stood idly by while Shiite militiamen torched Sunnis alive and Sadr's people told Maliki if he meets with Bush in Jordan in the next few days, they will pull out of the government and bring Maliki down.

Yeah, the wheels are off this thing.

But hey, at least there's some good shopping today! Get any great bargains at the mall?

Pentagon Had A "Mission Accomplished" Moment On Monday

Via Cunning Realist, here is a press release from the Pentagon on Monday touting a reduction in violence post-Ramadan in Iraq:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2006 – As expected, violence in Iraq has dropped following the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a coalition spokesman said in Baghdad today.

Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said civilian and Iraqi security force casualties were at the lowest levels since the government was formed in May.

So far this month, the civilian casualty count is well below the casualty count in October and below the six-month average. The security force casualties reduced 21 percent over the past four weeks, and are at the lowest level in 25 weeks, he said.

“In Baghdad, there was a 22 percentage drop in casualties related to sectarian violence and executions,” Caldwell said during a televised news conference. “Coalition forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces to control the sectarian violence and terrorist attacks.”

Now here's the reality in Iraq just four days later per the NY Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 24 — As the death toll from a series of devastating car bombs in a Shiite district here rose today to more than 200, a powerful legislative bloc loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr threatened to boycott the government if Iraq’s prime minister attends a scheduled meeting with President Bush in Jordan next week.

The legislators met in an office in Sadr City, the neighborhood hit by the explosions on Thursday, and angrily denounced the American military, saying the presence of the foreign forces was galvanizing the violence roiling Iraq. Also today, in the far north, a suicide car bomber and a suicide belt bomber detonated their explosives in crowded areas in the volatile city of Tal Afar, killing at least 20 people and injuring at least 42.

The carnage over the 24-hour period amounted to one of the worst spasms of violence since the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Though the Iraqi government maintained a tight curfew across the capital today, apparently fearful that events could spiral into full-scale civil war, hundreds of mourners poured into the streets of Sadr City to join processions of minibuses and sedans carrying wooden coffins. Women in black robes beat their chests while men waved pistols from car windows to clear the streets.

Yup - another Mission Accomplished moment brought to you by the same people who brought you that oldie by goodie flight suit moment back in May 2003 on the aircraft carrier.


MSNBC's top story as of 9:27 AM?

How to survive Black Friday shopping scuffles to come out with great holiday gift bargains.

MSNBC's second story as of 9:27 AM?

New bomb blasts kill 22 as Iraq violence spirals: Shiites threaten boycott a day after 215 killed in strikes on Shiite slum.

It's good to be an American, isn't it? You get to make believe that silly shit like Black Friday shopping scuffles mean something while the slaughter your country started in Iraq nearly four years ago continues to escalate, a 1,000 Iraqis a day are being displaced by the sectarian violence, and each month sees a sharp increase in civilian casualties (3,709 died in October according to a UN report released Wednesday.)

What a fucking bunch of silly, silly people we are.

UPDATE: CNN runs the same top story, only they call it "Black Friday: Ready, Set, Shop!"

I'm sensing a news theme.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ruined Baghdad Photo Op?

Remember three years ago when Preznit Bush made a surprise night-time visit to Iraq and appeared in Baghdad to serve some Thanksgiving dinner to the troops and have some cheery photos sent back home in time for the '04 election?

Well, rumor has it that the administration sent VP Dick Cheney to Baghdad for a similar Thanksgiving photo op this year.

The only problem is, all hell has broken loose with over 150 people dying and hundreds more wounded in multiple suicide bomb and mortar attacks today in Sadr City, ruining what surely would have been heart-warming pics of DeadEye Dick smiling with some soldiers and marines.

So the VP's office is denying that Cheney is "now" in Iraq. But he was scheduled to be in Saudia Arabia today and we know just how much this administration loves surprise trips/photo ops to Iraq. I have to say, I have a hard time believing they would have missed the chance to send DeadEye Dick to the Green Zone for that heart-warming photo op with him being so close and all. But now that "Thanksgiving in Baghdad" has turned into a slaughterhouse, they seem to have canceled the photo op and tried to hide Cheney's whereabouts.

While I'm sad that Dick and Lynne Cheney didn't get a chance to commune with the troops for a Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat, I am hopeful that they got to hear and see some of the carnage from the Sadr City slaughter that happened today. Cheney ought to see what his own arrogance and ineptitude has wreaked upon the people of Iraq up close.

But then again, given the Vice Preznit's renowned cowardice (bunker on 9/11, five deferments during Vietnam, hid for 15 hours after shooting acquaintance in the face on a Texas hunting trip), I guess I ought to figure that if Cheney did by chance fly into Baghdad for a photo op, he'd go nowhere near where the real action is and he'd run as far as his fat ass and weak heart would carry him at the first sounds of violence.

That's what chickenhawk motherfuckers do - they send other people's kids, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms, and dads to fight and die in wars they have no idea how to run but flee at the first sign of danger to themselves.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chickenhawk Motherfuckers

From Lawrence O'Donnell at Huffingtonpost:

Charlie Rangel is angry about the Iraq war, the one that Henry Kissinger has told us we can't win. Thanks, Henry, but most Americans figured that out before you did. Rangel saw combat in Korea. Kissinger has only seen combat on TV. That might have something to do with why Kissinger thinks our troops should stay in Iraq even though we can't win.

Kissinger says that if we leave now, all hell will break loose and Iraq will never achieve stability. Never mind that all hell has already broken loose. Never mind that Kissinger said the same thing would happen if we left Vietnam--all hell would break loose and Vietnam would never achieve stability. Vietnam has become so stable that Presidents Clinton and Bush, both combat cowards during the Vietnam war, have made well publicized, utterly safe visits to the country Kissinger used to think didn't have a chance without us.

In my one conversation with Kissinger, which occurred on TV, I asked him if he knew anyone who got killed in Vietnam. He was completely thrown. He doesn't go on TV to be asked such small-minded questions, he goes on TV to pontificate and TV interviewers are happy to let him do it. Kissinger sputtered and ran away from the question, leaving the distinct impression that he did not know anyone who was killed in the war he managed. His memoir of the period does not mention a single casualty. If you have ever stood at the Vietnam Memorial and run your hand over the name of a relative on the wall, as my mother and I did last month, you can get as angry as Charlie Rangel does about people like Kissinger deciding how long our soldiers should be exposed to enemy fire in a war we know we can't win.


Well over 95% of Americans, including Congress and White House staff, have no personal connection to this war--no relative or friend serving in Iraq. Over 99% of us have made no sacrifice for this war--we have not paid one more penny of taxes nor shed a drop of family blood. One of my military relatives thinks of it this way: "The American military is at war, but America is not at war."

Advocating war is easier when you and your family are not endangered by it. I've reached a Rangel-like breaking point with my TV pundit colleagues who championed the Iraq war and now say we can't leave even if we went there for the wrong reasons. For every one of them, I have a simple question: Why aren't you in Iraq? Or why did you avoid combat in your generation's war? The one unifying characteristic that all of us men in make-up on political chat shows share is fear of combat. Every one of us has done everything we can to avoid combat or even being fitted for a military uniform. Just like George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney, we are all combat cowards. It takes a very special kind of combat coward to advocate combat for others. It's the kind of thing that can get you as angry as Charlie Rangel.

Yup - it's time to put up or shut up for all the chickenhawk motherfuckers like Holy Joe Lieverman, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush who envision no end to the war ever.

You boys wanna send another 20,000 troops to Iraq? Fine - start by sending Barbara and Jenna, that toxic lesbian daughter of Cheney's, and all of Lieberman's kids. Hell, the Army's taking people up to the age of 42 now, so they're all eligible! And this way, the war sacrifice can be evenly shared.

And the same goes for all you tough-guy wingnuts who are fighting the war on terror by talking tough about "Islamo-Fascism" on the Internet. Sign up, babies! Put your money where your mouths are.

The war on terror needs warm bodies and cannon fodder, not bullshit comments left at blogs.


Getting worse and worse as sectarian killings far outstrip insurgent attacks:

BAGHDAD, Nov. 22 — More Iraqi civilians were killed in October than in any month since the American invasion in 2003, a report released by the United Nations today said, a rise that underscored the growing cost of Iraq’s deepening civil war.

According to the report, 3,709 Iraqis were killed in October, up slightly from the previous all-time high in July, and an increase of about 11 percent from the number in September.

The figures, which include totals from the Baghdad morgue as well as hospitals and morgues across the country, have become a central barometer of the war here and a gauge of the progress of the American military as it tries to bring stability to this exhausted country.

A dangerous trend surfaced: Sixty-five percent of all killings in Baghdad were executions, the signature technique of militias, who kidnap, kill and throw away corpses at a rate that now outstrips the slaughter inflicted by suicide bombers.

Does anyone really think the 20,000 additional troops sent to Iraq for a brief "surge" of force is really going to put a stop to the carnage?

Hell, even John McCain admitted to Robert Reich in the This Week greenroom that his call for more troops for the Iraq war is nothing but bullshit p.r.

And yet, the Decider, perhaps the last person on earth who still thinks "victory" is achievable, is seriously considering sending 20,000 more - just enough to make the lives of many military men and women and their families miserable but not enough to actually alter the deteriorating security.

Ludicrous. And yet, it looks like that's just what's going to happen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bloomberg Accountability

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is big on holding New York City public school teachers accountable, but when it comes to the consultants he and his cronies hire, there's no accountability whatsoever. So says the NY Daily News:

Consultants are not only getting more than a million dollars apiece from taxpayers to find school cost savings - they're also getting as much as $500 a day for expenses.

And they don't even have to submit receipts.

It's an arrangement City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) called "outrageous" and vowed to investigate when the Education Committee he chairs convenes a hearing today on the use of no-bid contracts in the city schools.

School officials last year awarded a record-breaking $121million worth of contracts without the public review required of most city agencies, a Daily News analysis found.

One of the largest and most controversial contracts put the city-based Alvarez & Marsal in charge of school finances for 17-1/2 months to find ways to cut bureaucracy.

The contract - which was initially posted publicly for $17 million but later modified to $15.8million - includes 19 consultants billing at rates ranging from $275 to $450 an hour, including seven whose total bills will top $1 million.

It also includes an 11% flat fee totaling $1.6 million for expenses, mostly "costs of living in New York, including hotels and flights," said Education Department spokesman David Cantor.

Some of the consultants, including project leader Sajan George, do commute from other states. George is billing $500 per day for expenses - $190,575 in all - on top of the $1.7 million he's billing for his time.

"Unbelievable!" gasped schools watchdog Noreen Connell of the Educational Priorities Panel when she heard about the expense allowance.

"If they're working for Time Warner or something, that's fine but ... in the government arena, you really have to think that this is coming out of someone else's hide."

Cantor said the firm is already working at a discounted rate and said the Department of Education decided it was not going to "make them spend the time processing ... these small-change items."

The firm has already cut at least $89 million in administrative costs so that schools could hire teachers and counselors, Cantor said.

"That's the bottom line for us," Cantor said. "We are getting a tremendous return for our money."

These consultants who are costing taxpayers shitloads of money per day were hired by Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein to find ways to save the taxpayers money by cutting expenses in the public school system.

Hey - here's an novel idea to save money. Why don't we start by cutting out all the dough being paid to "consultants" like Alvarez & Marsal.

That's Mayor Moneybags for you - he's all about accountability for the little people, but when it comes to his fellow billionaire businessmen and crony consultants, the skies the limit.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Doubling Down

From the Wall Street Journal:

BOGOR, Indonesia – President Bush, facing mounting calls to change course in Iraq, said he is still considering sending more American troops to try to quell the violence there.

Speaking to reporters here, Mr. Bush made clear he also is considering withdrawing some troops and said he wouldn't make final decisions until he received recommendations from U.S. military commanders and other government officials currently conducting sweeping reviews of U.S. policy on Iraq.

Let's take bets - is he sending more or pulling some out?

I bet he's sending more - at least 20,000 more - even though it's widely acknowledged we don't really have any more troops to send and even though retired General Barry McCaffrey says we must withdraw 5 brigades from Iraq by Christmas "to keep the army from breaking."

Still, I'm betting he'll keep the 152,000 he's already got there and send another 20,000-30,000 National Guard troops, the ones he's not supposed to send because they're supposed to stay here at home and deal with domestic emergencies.

Yeah, I'm betting Bush is doubling down on this.

I mean, we're talking about his legacy, you know?

And I bet they go back to the "Defeatist" and "Cut and Run" talk when critics poke holes in his Double Down Plan.

Sue The Bastards

The "terror suspects" who were detained after the 9/11 attacks here in New York and held in Brooklyn were never charged with any crimes.

They were beaten, abused, denied basic legal and religious privileges under the apparent orders of the upstanding moral people running our government after 9/11, however.

The LA Times says one way to get back at administration officials and military and/or police personnel who have engaged in torture or abuse of "terror suspects" is to sue them in court. Which is what is happening now:

NEW YORK — Five years after Muslim immigrants were abused in a federal jail here, the guards who beat them and the Washington policymakers who decided to hold them for months without charges are being called to account.

Some 1,200 Middle Eastern men were arrested on suspicion of terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. No holding place was so notorious as Brooklyn's nine-story Metropolitan Detention Center. In a special unit on the top floor, detainees were smashed into walls, repeatedly stripped and searched, and often denied basic legal rights and religious privileges, according to federal investigations.

Now the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail, has revealed for the first time that 13 staff members have been disciplined, two of them fired. The warden has retired and moved to the Midwest.

And in what could turn out to be a landmark case, a lawsuit filed by two Brooklyn detainees against top Bush administration officials is moving forward in the federal courts in New York.

A judge turned down a request by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft to dismiss the lawsuit against them. The case is before an appeals court, where a panel of three judges signaled last month that they too believed it should go forward.

The suit, which also names top federal prison officials and individual guards as defendants, seeks an unspecified amount of money from the government. More significant, it hopes to hold federal law enforcement authorities responsible for their open-ended, "hold-until-cleared" policy for detainees. After Sept. 11, the FBI was in no rush to investigate the detainees, and many men were held in limbo. If the lawsuit prevails, it will create precedents that will probably bar authorities from carrying out such sweeping roundups in the future.

The case is proceeding with just one of the detainees who sued. The government settled with the other, former Manhattan deli operator Ehab Elmaghraby, who this year accepted a federal government payout of $300,000.

But Elmaghraby, who has returned to Egypt, said he could not forgive the guards who jammed a flashlight up his rectum.

"They destroyed me. They destroyed my family," he said in a recent telephone interview. "So I want the officers to stay one week inside those cells. They would kill themselves before the week was finished."


Five investigations by the Department of Justice inspector general's office, most of them never publicized, documented wholesale abuse of the Muslim detainees at the Brooklyn detention center. In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, 84 men were held there. None was charged in the attacks. Most were deported on immigration infractions.

One disturbing incident, repeated over and over, is particularly haunting — inmates head-slammed into a wall where the staff had taped a T-shirt with an American flag printed on it. The motto on the shirt proclaimed: "These colors don't run." In time, that spot on the wall was covered with blood.

"They told me, 'Look at our flag. You see the blood that is coming down from our flag? We're going to make you bleed every day like this,' " Elmaghraby recalled.

He said they grabbed his back and sides and rushed him head-first into the wall. "Blood came out of my mouth," he said.


Elmaghraby moved to the U.S. in 1990, married and operated a deli near Times Square in Manhattan. Nineteen days after Sept. 11, he was arrested, apparently because his landlord in Queens had applied for pilot training.

For the first three months in the jail, he said, he was denied a blanket, pillow, mattress and toilet paper. He was locked away in his bare feet.

"No shoes for a terrorist," he said he was told.

He said he was repeatedly strip-searched, dragged on the ground and punched until his teeth shattered. He said that he was displayed naked in front of a female staffer, and that guards violated him with a flashlight and pencil.

Elmaghraby, 39, broke down crying in a recent interview. "They don't treat you like a person," he said. "They treat you like an animal."

He was held for nearly a year — until August 2002. After pleading guilty to minor credit card fraud charges, he was deported to Alexandria, Egypt.

He has lost track of his wife in New York, he said, and his deli business went under. And he spent most of his $300,000 settlement to repair his stomach and esophagus, which he said were damaged because jail doctors did not properly treat him for severe indigestion and hypertension.

The former detainee with whom the lawsuit is proceeding, Javaid Iqbal, is also 39. Iqbal, a Pakistani, came to America a dozen years ago. He married and he worked as a cable repairman on Long Island. He was arrested in November 2001, apparently after agents interviewed him in his apartment and spotted a magazine showing the twin towers collapsing.

He said he was mocked as a "Muslim terrorist and a killer." He was strip-searched, punched in the face and kicked in the back. He said guards urinated in his toilet, then turned off the water so it would not flush.

He was denied a copy of the Koran. "No prayer for terrorists," he said he was told.

Iqbal was released at the end of July 2002. He pleaded guilty to having false immigration papers and was deported to Faisalabad, Pakistan. His lawyers declined to let him be interviewed.

Guards at the detention center first denied there was any mistreatment, then slowly came forward. Finally videotapes were uncovered that showed abuse, including detainees head-butted into the T-shirt on the wall.

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said 13 staff members have been disciplined. Two were fired, two received 30-day suspensions and one was suspended for 21 days. Two more were suspended for four days, three for two days, and three were demoted.

Warden Dennis Hasty retired in April 2002. He is named as a defendant in the lawsuit but his lawyer, Michael L. Martinez, said Hasty had not been aware of the abuse and had been "appalled and upset" to learn of the allegations.

The lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn in May 2004. Last year, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ruled against a bid by Ashcroft and Mueller for a dismissal.

The judge said the furor over Sept. 11 did not warrant such drastic measures. He rejected, he wrote, "the argument that the post-Sept. 11 context wholly extinguished … a pretrial detainee's due process rights."

The next time some fucking winger tells you we're the "good guys" in this "world-wide conflict of civilizations between freedom and Islamo-fascism," ask him or her if repeatedly sticking a flashlight and a pencil up an innocent man's rectum, shattering his teeth through repeated beatings, and detaining him indefinitely without charging him with any crime simply because his landlord wanted to learn how to fly airplanes makes us "the good guys."

You know - there are ways to go about conducting investigations and detentions that are thorough and yet humane, and then you have the kind of bullshit the Bush administration encouraged after 9/11 here in America, down in Gitmo and over in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It's nice to see that Ashcroft, Mueller and some of the rest are going to be held to account for this.

What fucking animals these people - Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Mueller, Rice, Rummy, the generals, the prison officials, the guards who engaged in this brutal behavior - are.

Fucking animals.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Send in the Subpoenas

In the Washington Post, Ron Suskind lays out the investigation plan Dems should pursue against the crooks, liars and petty tyrants in this administration now that they have the majorities in both the House and Senate:

The vast U.S. energy industry may be the ripest target for a corruption investigation. When Vice President Cheney's energy task force was meeting in early 2001 -- meetings whose secrecy Cheney has managed to protect against legal challenge -- the goal of U.S. energy independence was barely an afterthought. Now, with the United States mired in the affairs of petro-dictatorships in the Middle East, even the president has emphasized the need to cure our addiction to oil.

Studied inaction on this front stems from the coziness between the administration and big oil -- a relationship that affects the global warming debate, Iraq, gas prices and oil company profits. Investigations into that relationship are a sure win for the Democrats. Just lining up oil company executives under the hot lights -- much like the seven tobacco company chief executives were lined up in 1994, looking like gray-suited deer -- creates the image, if not necessarily the fact, of activist government. (Suggested witnesses: Lee Raymond, chief executive of Exxon Mobil until this year; Spencer Abraham, former energy secretary; Cheney; and David Addington, Cheney's deputy on many energy matters.)

While some inquests set the table for responsible policy -- much as hearings on pollution helped spur 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act -- most are designed to strengthen accountability and deter future perfidy. The administration's repeated practice of strong-arming experts who stray off message makes for a bevy of high-intensity witnesses. They include global warming experts in various departments as well as Richard Foster, the Health and Human Services accountant who was threatened with dismissal for trying to alert Congress about the deceptive cost estimates on the Medicare prescription drug program. Hearings would show who gave the order to mislead the public on these issues of pressing concern -- a proper investigation for any Congress. (Suggested witnesses: Tom Scully, Foster's boss; James Hansen of NASA; Rick Piltz, formerly of the U.S. Global Change Research Program; and former Environmental Protection Agency director Christine Todd Whitman.)


Oddly, Iraq may be the last place that Democratic investigators want to go, precisely because it is the arena from which the party's key above-the-fray "action plan" must emerge. So much is known from this year's host of Iraq books and stream of media disclosures that hearings would mostly unearth common knowledge -- a patience-trying prospect for a war-fatigued public.

Some Republicans would disagree. The goal of an investigation, and public hearings, they argue, is to destroy the targets. Ruin them, and whatever public purpose they champion is ruined as well. You have to make it personal. That's what people understand -- and that's what will create a public "moment" at a hearing table, one that will echo forward, even if the events in question are long passed.

Over in the people's chamber, some House investigators are quite clear on how to make things personal: Force administration officials to say that they lied or to take the Fifth Amendment. Two areas of modest public purpose, but fierce public passions, are the rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and the death of NFL star-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman. In both cases, government officials willfully distributed false information. To show how that sort of thing happens -- who crafted and authorized the release -- would lead to the question of whether the practice is part of approved policy, an issue that drives at the very character of this administration. (Suggested witnesses: Jim Wilkinson, deputy national security adviser from 2003 to 2005 and spinmeister for the Iraq war; Dan Bartlett, special assistant to Bush for communications; and Gen. John P. Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command.)


Unfortunately, as I've encountered repeatedly in my own reporting, discernible reality in the war on terrorism is mostly locked in a vault marked "classified." There is no realm in which more misinformation has been passed to the public, a result of the creative license that a largely secret war affords this -- or any -- government.

A mission of the Democratic Congress that would please both the gods of politics and of public purpose (they don't always intersect) may be to drag that war from the shadows. But it will be difficult. Though members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees know from interrogation and wiretap scandals that they are ill-equipped to oversee such wide swaths of classified activities, the administration's position on keeping secrets secret is strong. Virtually no one now in the government advocates disclosure -- the default setting is to classify everything.

Democratic-run congressional committees could push for some modicum of transparency in public hearings. Start with whether any Americans who are clearly uninvolved in terrorist activities have been, or are being, wiretapped. The list is long, and addressing it would encourage judicial oversight of that program -- as well as various financial surveillance programs -- rather than keeping it caught in partisan gridlock between executive and legislative branches. (Suggested witnesses: Michael V. Hayden, formerly National Security Agency director, now head of the CIA; Robert S. Mueller III, FBI director; and Charles T. Fote, former chief executive of First Data Corp.)

The list of areas crying out for inquiry is quite long as well. The "war on terror" is a vast undiscovered country. The erosion of global U.S. human intelligence assets since the start of the Iraq war, for example, is harrowing. The fraying threads of international cooperation (as anti-Americanism becomes a path to political success throughout the world) correspond to a dizzying growth of self-activated terrorist cells. And it gets worse. A September 2003 meeting of all pertinent top officials in government, including the president and vice president, discussed how suspected terrorists, identified by the CIA, were lost by the FBI once they entered the United States -- even after the 9/11 attacks. The heated exchanges that day, and numerous similar ones over the past three years, suggest a breakdown in process that will surely be discussed by some commission after the next terrorist attack. (Suggested witnesses: Cheney, Mueller and FBI counterterrorism chief Phil Mudd, formerly at the CIA.)

Frankly I would like to see the gods of both politics and policy satisfied here. Nothing would please me better than to see Cheney subpoenaed before the House and the Senate to tell the American people how suspected terrorists identified by the CIA were lost by the FBI once they entered the U.S. - after 9/11. Of course, Cheney wouldn't show up. He'd hide in the shadows like the chickenhawked coward he is - but his absence at the hearings would tell the American people all they need to know about DeadEye Dick and the administration's supposed "successes" in the war on terror, especially if and when terrorists strike again in the United States.

It would also be nice to get former NSA Director and current CIA Director Michael Hayden under oath and force him to admit the administration has been deliberately spying on Americans who are clearly not involved in terrorism while they are losing suspected terrorists identified by the CIA once those suspects enter the country.

And finally, it would nice to draw the current back from the war mythology and put face and voices to all the mismanagement and lies perpetrated by this administration on the American people regarding the war in Iraq, both pre- and post-invasion.

Yeah, now that true oversight is returning to Washington D.C., this might be a fun few months coming up.

UPDATE: It's a shame more reporters aren't like Ron Suskind.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Makes Me Proud To Be A New Yorker

According to a just released Survey USA poll, 74% of New Yorkers disapprove of the job Preznit Bush is doing as commander-in-chief.

Close seconds include Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusettes, and Vermont - 72% of those folks disapprove of the job Preznit Bush is doing.

And the wingiest of wingnut areas of the country? Why Idaho and Utah, of course, where 55% approve of the job the preznit is doing.

In every other state, the preznit's job approval rating is below 50%.

Must suck to know that a huge majority of the country think you're an incompetent, lying moron as preznit.

Oh, well - he can always start drinking again. And at least Barney the Dog likes him.

Or at least Bushie thinks Barney the Dog likes him.

I bet if Survey USA took a poll of Barney the Dog and his friends...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Holy Shit - We May Get A Top Republican On The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Who Actually Believes Global Warming Exists!!!

Oh Lordy. I'm paying James Inhofe gets sent packing from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. And the Post says it may happen:

Dramatic changes in congressional oversight of environmental issues may pump new life into efforts to fight global warming, activist groups and lawmakers said yesterday.

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) announced his intention to become the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, now headed by Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has said that global warming is a hoax. Warner has called for action against climate change, and his ascension to a leadership post would accelerate significant changes already underway.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) -- a liberal who has called global warming a dire threat -- is in line to chair the committee in the next Congress as a result of last week's elections, which will give Democrats the Senate majority. Environmentalists have been hailing her impending replacement of Inhofe as chairman. Warner's takeover of the ranking minority member's slot, they said yesterday, would raise even greater hopes for advancing their agenda.

"That could drastically change the way that committee operates," said Karen Steuer, government affairs chief at the National Environmental Trust. "We might see, on a number of issues, bipartisan legislation coming out of that committee, and that would be a huge step forward. . . . In one fell swoop, it's gone from the Dark Ages to the Space Age."

First, however, GOP senators must decide whether Warner's seniority on the committee grants him the right to be the ranking Republican. Inhofe issued a statement saying that he thinks Warner "has misunderstood the rules" and that "I intend to retain my leadership position in the 110th Congress, returning as the Ranking Member" of the environment committee.

Warner responded in a statement: "I carefully reviewed the rules in consultation with the Secretary of the Majority, who assures me that my seniority on the Committee forms a clear basis, under longstanding precedent" for claiming the top Republican spot. Warner will surrender the Armed Services Committee chairmanship and assert his party leadership claim on the environmental panel.

Given that it's been 70 degrees all week and it's fucking November, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have a ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who doesn't think global warming is a commie pinko plot to brainwash children and turn them all into godless UN-loving hippies.

I'm just saying.

You Only Lose When You Quit

Attacks in Iraq have skyrocketed over the last year. So says Walter Pincus in the Washington Post:

Attacks in Iraq reached a high of approximately 180 a day last month, reflecting an increasingly complicated conflict that includes sectarian clashes of Sunni and Shiite militias on top of continuing strikes by insurgents, criminal gangs and al-Qaeda terrorists, according to the directors of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.


Attempting to describe the enemy, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the DIA director, listed "Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists, former military, angry Sunni, Jihadists, foreign fighters and al-Qaeda," who create an "overlapping, complex and multi-polar Sunni insurgent and terrorist environment." He added that "Shia militias and Shia militants, some Kurdish pesh merga, and extensive criminal activity further contribute to violence, instability and insecurity."

In unusually harsh terms, the two intelligence directors spelled out how quickly the violence in Iraq has escalated this year, from about 70 attacks a day in January to about 100 a day in May and then to last month's figure. "Violence in Iraq continues to increase in scope, complexity, and lethality" despite operations by the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition, Maples said. He described "an atmosphere of fear and hardening sectarianism which is empowering militias and vigilante groups, hastening middle-class exodus, and shaking confidence in government and security forces."

In other Iraq news, 4 American and 1 Austrian security contractor were kidnapped by insurgents yesterday after their convoy was hijacked in southern Iraq.

The Iraqi government has issued an arrest warrant for a Sunni cleric, Sheik Harith al-Dhari, on charges of inciting terrorism and violence. Some people fear this arrest could further inflame the Sunni insurgency, especially since the Iraqi government seems to be giving free reign to the Shia death squads working out of the Interior and Defense Ministries.

Finally our preznit says he has learned the lesson of the Vietnam War and is applying it to Iraq: You only lose when you quit!

So don't expect any quitting from this preznit. Heck no, we're gonna keep just enough troops in country in the forseeable future to continue the "Stand and Bleed" administration policy while the security conditions and the sectarian violence continues to worsen.

I guess elections don't have consequences anymore. In 2000, 2002, and 2004, we were told that "elections have consequences" and no matter how small the electoral victory, the victors ALWAYS had a mandate to pursue their policies.

But now suddenly that Bush and the GOP are on the losing end, elections no longer have any consequences and the Decider in the White House gets to decide the Iraq policy no matter what the American people or the victorious opposition party want.

And so the Decider hss decided that victory will be ours as long as we decide not to leave Iraq until we achieve victory.

Yeah, that makes sense. And the bloodshed and chaos continues unabated while the delusional Decider makes believe he's Patton.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hoyer, Murtha and Pelosi

I had another post about the Hoyer/Murtha/Pelosi thing, but I got rid of it cuz' Wonkette's is so much better:

Nancy Pelosi was unanimously voted Speaker of the House (congrats, crazy hippie!), and Steny “Slightly Less Corrupt” Hoyer was elected Majority Leader, beating out John “Bribe Me Later” Murtha. The vote in the Majority Leader race: 149-86. The crazy race which made Trent Lott the House Whipper of Minorities was a helluva lot closer, but expect to see “Dems Divided: Speaker Pelosi’s Leadership Ability Questioned” pieces in your major papers by sundown.

And here are the "Dems Divided" pieces in the Times, the Post, and Newsweek.

But I like Wonkette's better.

How About A "Plan For Victory" For Afghanistan

You know, while everybody wrings their hands over the Iraq war and the preznit gets set to escalate the conflict by adding another 20,000 troops, the situation in Afghanistan continues to go south:

Al-Qaeda's influence and numbers are rapidly growing in Afghanistan, with fighters operating from new havens and mimicking techniques learned on the Iraqi battlefield for use against U.S. and allied troops, the directors of the CIA and defense intelligence told Congress yesterday.

Five years after the United States drove al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the CIA, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that both groups are back, waging a "bloody insurgency" in the south and east of the country. U.S. support for the Kabul government of Hamid Karzai will be needed for "at least a decade" to ensure that the country does not fall again, he said.

At yesterday's Senate hearings, devoted mostly to Iraq, Hayden and Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, painted a stark portrait of a struggling Afghanistan and a successful al-Qaeda capable of operating on two battlefields.

"The direct tissue between Iraq and Afghanistan is al-Qaeda," said Hayden, who visited both countries recently. "The lessons learned in Iraq are being applied to Afghanistan."

Senators noted the increased use of roadside bombs and the relatively new phenomenon of suicide attacks, which had not been seen in Afghanistan before the Iraq war.

Hayden told the Senate panel that the Taliban, aided by al-Qaeda, "has built momentum this year" in Afghanistan and that "the level of violence associated with the insurgency has increased significantly." He also noted that Karzai's government "is nowhere to be seen" in many rural areas where a lack of security is affecting millions of Afghans for whom the quality of life has not advanced since the U.S. military arrived in October 2001.

So while Bush and his White House minions continue to tell people that we can't leave Iraq because it may become a rogue state like the former Afghanistan under the Taliban, Afghanistan continues on the road to becoming a rogue state under the Taliban.

Sounds like victory to me.

Too bad the preznit didn't finish the mission in Afghanistan before he invaded Iraq.


After his election night "thumping," Preznit Bush promised to reach out to the other party and stop his "It's my way or the way" governing style. Since then he has renominated the controversial and now doomed Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, and renominated a whole slew of wingnut judges that couldn't get through the 55-45 R/D Senate back before the election.

Now according to the Guardian, despite the resounding numbers of Americans who want troop withdrawls from Iraq in the coming months, the preznit has decided to escalate the war:

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

Point one of the strategy calls for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000 soldiers. This figure is far fewer than that called for by the Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain. But by raising troop levels, Mr Bush will draw a line in the sand and defy Democratic pressure for a swift drawdown.

The reinforcements will be used to secure Baghdad, scene of the worst sectarian and insurgent violence, and enable redeployments of US, coalition and Iraqi forces elsewhere in the country.

Point two of the plan stresses the importance of regional cooperation to the successful rehabilitation of Iraq. This could involve the convening of an international conference of neighbouring countries or more direct diplomatic, financial and economic involvement of US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.


Point three focuses on reviving the national reconciliation process between Shia, Sunni and other ethnic and religious parties. According to the sources, creating a credible political framework will be portrayed as crucial in persuading Iraqis and neighbouring countries alike that Iraq can become a fully functional state.

To the certain dismay of US neo-cons, initial post-invasion ideas about imposing fully-fledged western democratic standards will be set aside. And the report is expected to warn that de facto tripartite partition within a loose federal system, as advocated by Democratic senator Joe Biden and others would lead not to peaceful power-sharing but a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Lastly, the sources said the study group recommendations will include a call for increased resources to be allocated by Congress to support additional troop deployments and fund the training and equipment of expanded Iraqi army and police forces. It will also stress the need to counter corruption, improve local government and curtail the power of religious courts.

"You've got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it's Bush still calling the shots. He believes it's a matter of political will. That's what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he's going to stick with it," a former senior administration official said. "He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall."

The "last push" strategy is also intended to give Mr Bush and the Republicans "political time and space" to recover from their election drubbing and prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign, the official said. "The Iraq Study Group buys time for the president to have one last go. If the Democrats are smart, they'll play along, and I think they will. But forget about bipartisanship. It's all about who's going to be in best shape to win the White House.

The official added: "Bush has said 'no' to withdrawal, so what else do you have? The Baker report will be a set of ideas, more realistic than in the past, that can be used as political tools. What they're going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it."

Long live the king. He's the decider and he has decided the war goes on and Democrats and other war critics will be tarred as "defeatists" if they don't agree wholeheartedly with his "Plan for Victory."

Okay, I get that Bush is a delusional fool who may actually believe there is still a chance for "victory" in Iraq. And I get that politicians on both sides are going to try and maneuver during this critical time to get the advantage for the '08 elections.

But here's what I don't get: does anyone really think 20,000 more troops is going to make that much difference in a war where the current level of 153,000 hasn't? There was a time when 20,000 additional soldiers would have meant something (like after the fall of Baghdad when they could have been used to guard the weapons dumps or after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.) But the sense you get know is that the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia is so beyond the pale that 20,000 additional troops will not be nearly enough of a force to make any real inroads into the casualty count.

Not to mention that the real problem in Iraq is the power the militias have both in and out of the government. If Bush and the Baker-Hamilton Commission are going to continue to ignore the fact that militiamen in the government are involved in sectarian violence, revenge murders, torture, and other mayhem, then the "Final Push Plan" is going nowhere.

And I didn't see anything in that "Final Push Plan" that advocated curtailing the power of the militias? Because that would be, in Bush parlance, "hard work."

So instead we get a minor escalation of troop levels, a "regional conference" that seems to exclude the two problem powers in the region - Iran and Syria - and more public relations opportunities for the preznit to extol the virtues of victory in Iraq while the reality on the ground continues to deteriorate.

Sounds like victory to me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Boy Am I Glad This Guy Got Elected

I know Senator-Elect James Webb's opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal has been on a few of the liberal blogs already today, but I found it to be very compelling reading. Here it is in full, just in case you missed it and the WSJ decides to stick it behind a pay wall:

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

And Tucker Carlson thinks this guy is more conservative than George Allen?

End of the Line


Been listening to a lot of Harrison lately. I thought maybe somebody else'd get a kick out of this.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Let's Write Some Emails

Jay Mathews, the Washington Post education reporter, is looking for the best education blogs on the net. My favorite education blog is How about sending some emails to Mr. Mathews and letting him know about our old friend nyc educator and his blog. Jay's email is: Or you can send an email to Walt Gardner:

Believe me, reading Jay's column on a regular basis, he could really use some educatin' over at nyc educator's blog.

Still Tearing Up the Constitution

Last Tuesday's election seems to have changed nothing when it comes to how the administration plans to treat people accused of "terrorism":

Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday, opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.

In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant," a designation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marri represents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the new law. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.

"It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri. "It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention."

The new law says that enemy combatants will be tried before military commissions, not a civilian judge or jury, and establishes different rules of evidence in the cases. It also prohibits detainees from challenging their detention in civilian court.

In a separate court filing in Washington on Monday, the Justice Department defended that law as constitutional and necessary.

Government attorneys said foreign fighters arrested as part of an overseas military action have no constitutional rights and are being afforded more legal rights than ever.

Let's reiterate - under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, American citizens as well as "foreign fighters" and "immigrants" can be declared "enemy combatants," whisked off the street, held in jail indefinitely without charges being filed, and denied the right of habeas corpus.

George W. Bush now has dictatorial powers that rival Stalin's in scope. He can arrest any person - foreign or American - and throw them away in jail without a key simply by declaring them "enemy combatants."

Perhaps that ought to be a law this new House of Representatives and Senate take a look at in January.

Cuz' I get the feeling this psycho in the White House is just delusional enough to declare any person elected president after him who runs and wins on a platform of withdrawl from Iraq an "enemy combatant."Or any Congress that attempts to circumvent his "Stand and Bleed" Iraq policy "enemy combatants," for that matter.

And as for James Baker's Iraq Group, don't you get the feeling that's sorta one of these bipartisan commissions created to spread the blame around and give Bush cover for this worst foreign policy failure ever by bringing Dems in on it with him?

Monday, November 13, 2006

George Carlin On The Ten Commandments

Carlin says the Ten Commandments is a political document devised to control people and artificially inflated to sell better. He manages to get it down to two - and they're really, really good ones:

GOP Operative Guilty In Coingate Trial

Bye-bye Tom:

Jurors have found a Republican fundraiser guilty of stealing over $2 million in rare coins from the state of Ohio Worker's Compensation fund--and funneling some of the money to the Republican party.

Ex-GOP fundraiser Tom Noe had pleaded not guilty to charges of corrupt activity, theft, money laundering, and forgery.

The indictment's most serious charges carry a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.

Thanks for helping turn Ohio Democratic, Tom. You can think about that while you rot in your cell for your 27 month federal sentence (and that's before you start the the 3 years + for the 1st degree felony theft conviction...)

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